You'd think that the sort of mind capable of conceiving a lovable serial killer would be warped beyond human recognition. Seriously, as much as we may be in awe of, say, Hannibal Lecter's IQ, we wouldn't exactly invite him over for dinner. Dexter, on the other hand, we'd invite him over for a beer. Maybe even go on a date with him. Okay, no date maybe, but we'd definitely hang out with the dude.
New Times: What can you tell us about growing up in Miami?
Jeff Lindsay: It was the best possible place for a kid to grow up back then. Still had the small town feel. Your parents could throw you out of the house and say, come back for dinner, and not worry about it. We rode our bikes all over town, and ran all over the place barefoot, climbing trees, fishing, somebody always had a boat - I mean, it was like tropical Huck Finn. My part of the Grove you didn't have to lock your door at night.
Was it your intention to create an endearing serial killer when you wrote Darkly Dreaming Dexter?
Yeah. I wanted to do that all along. That was kind of the personal challenge of it for me, to create a character that you sympathize with and then catch yourself at it--like, "I love you - but, oops, you're a serial killer..."
When you were writing Darkly Dreaming Dexter, did you worry that people might not "get it" and respond negatively?
No, I didn't need to worry about it. I could watch it happen, every time I mentioned it or showed somebody the manuscript. Really and truly, nobody gave it a shot, not even me, except my wife. She believed in it all along. But it was rejected by a dozen agents and editors--I mean, nobody wanted anything to do with it.
Your wife, Hilary Hemingway, is also a writer, whom you've worked with before. What was it like to work with her?
It was wonderful. Still is. We don't compete with each other. When we work, we're working for the idea, the project, and not to see who can be the coolest or shout the loudest. I think it helps that we have different strengths. She's much better at plot and structure. I'm better with character and dialogue.
In the latest installment of your Dexter series, Dexter is Delicious, you seem to capture very realistically the feeling of pride and wonder when becoming a parent. Is that how you felt with the birth of your children? Can you tell us something about your kids?
I think it's kind of an idealized portrait of parenthood. You know, the first sight of your new baby, everybody gets weepy and vows to quit drinking. But by the time they're a few years old you need a drink more than ever and you're using all your self-control to keep from clunking them on the head half the time. And that's fine - that's natural. I mean, it's really important NOT to clunk them, but we all feel the urge. My kids? I'm crazy about them, crazy-proud. They're smart, good-looking and talented. And they have no dents in their heads from me losing it - so far.
How do you think Dexter has grown since you began to document his dark travels?
For starters, he's put on a few pounds. I think he's mellowed a little bit, except on those Special Evenings when he goes out to party with the Passenger. He has a little more understanding of what it means to be a human being. He's never thought of himself as one, but he's beginning to feel a little connection.
When you were on the Dexter set for your cameo, what did it feel like to physically experience the world you had created?
I've been on the set before, that part wasn't weird. It's still a little odd to look at a backdrop of someplace you've been, like suddenly you're stuck in only two dimensions. But what really got to me was the awe they treated me with. I mean, the director made me take his chair. Everybody pointed and whispered, "that's the Creator." And I was the first six-line actor ever with his own trailer.
What do you think about the fact that the filming of the show was moved from Miami to L.A.?
It's basic Hollywood. A money thing. The insurance company wanted a huge, extortionate amount for Hurricane Insurance. How do they get away with this stuff? "You got a real nice show here - be a shame if something bad happened to it...." I know the production staff tries really hard to make it look like Miami, but I think most natives can tell it's not.
Are there any similarities between you and Dexter? What is the biggest difference between you (aside from the fact that you aren't a sociopathic serial-killer)?
Oh yeah, sure. Lots of similarities - and don't be too sure about the killer part - you never know who you're talking to, that's one of the basic Dexter lessons. Although I'm definitely not sociopathic. The big things? I have a horrible weakness for kids. I spent way too much time coaching, reading stories in school, leading Odyssey of the Mind teams, all that stuff. And I definitely feel like a bemused outsider like Dexter. I think most writers feel that, at least sometimes.
Dexter's means of unwinding is killing bad people. How do you unwind?
A glass of wine really helps. I like to cook, and play music, though not at the same time. I used to be a lot more outdoorsy until I messed up my legs. But I still like to get out on the boat, or my kayak. And a couple of times a year I like to work up a one-man show and take it in to elementary and middle schools for the kids. I had kids come up to me at my daughter's graduation and still talking about the "Telltale Heart" they saw me do when they were in the second grade. That's a great feeling, even better than the glass of wine.
Jeff Lindsay will be discussing Dexter's latest adventures on Saturday, November 21 at 2:30 p.m. Admission to the reading is included with your $8 admission to the Street Fair. Meet Dexter's creator at Miami-Dade College's Building 7 (500 NE Second Ave., Miami). Check out our full Miami Book Fair guide here.